Category Archives: Tomato

Looking Back: Tomato Success

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According to the newsfolks, it’s time to baton the hatches, put on the galoshes and head inside for the first storm of the season. And after our dry few years, we’re ready for it. But I thought I’d take this time, while we are enjoying the indoors to reflect on the good things about this past growing season. Sure we were full of disappointments this year, but our tomatoes…our tomatoes were a huge success. Oh sure, at first I complained about how they weren’t turning red, but once they did, they came on in full force.
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This year we limited ourselves to five plants, Better Boy, Consoluto Fiorentino, Italian Heirloom (generic name, isn’t it?), Big Rainbow and a Sweet 100. We also had a spare volunteer cherry tomato that has been sprawling along the ground with the melons too. All five plants that we planted were incredibly happy this year and all pulled their weight as heavy producers. Better Boy hit the ground running at the begining of the season and Big Rainbow has been pulling in the tail end of the season with baskets full of orange goodness.
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Our Sweet 100 even reached the top of the 10 foot cage…way to go little plant!
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We’ve made about 10 pints of canned sauce and have another handful of portions frozen in the freezer. Plus I dehydrated the Sweet 100’s this year and have about 2 cups of those in the pantry. We should be plenty supplied well into the winter with our own spaghetti sauce.

So tell me, what was your biggest garden success this past summer?

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The Days of Canning Begin

our biggest tomatoes
It’s been quiet around these here parts, hasn’t it? Sorry about that. We’ve been fully wrapped up in this last part of summer…can you feel slight hints of autumn where you live too? The tomatoes have finally started kicking them out with regularity so we’ve been making sauce when we can.
big tomato, small peach
These shown tomatoes are the largest that we’ve ever grown! Granted this peach is tiny for comparison, but these mysterious Italian Heirloom (that’s all the seed packet says) tomatoes are all weighing in well over a pound each. These combined with the funky ones, a few Better Boys and a handful of Sweet 100’s are filling the copper pot these days.
first season tomato sauce
How about you? We all were struggling with tomatoes earlier this season, are they catching up for you?

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Filed under Preserving, Tomato

Impractical Tomatoes

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Our tomatoes have started to turn red now and are slowly trickling onto the counter top to be incorporated into our daily meals. Right now I’m fascinated by this variety, Constoluto Fiorentino:
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I can’t say that it’s a very practical tomato. You can’t slice them for sandwiches all that well and even chopping them is a creative task, but sometimes garden fare needs to go beyond practical and just be beautiful.
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A Ripe Tomato Would be Nice

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It’s been a cool summer this year which has not been so beneficial to our garden. Not that I am complaining at all, we are not hot weather folks, but surely I can say that we would very much appreciate a ripe tomato. Just one big one for our first official BLT. Or maybe a small cherry just to snack on during our mid garden walk. Something! Our tomato plants are all doing well, towering over our heads in some cases and are full of tomatoes. But all of them are green without even a slight hint of red. Maybe these two days of heat will help. Hopefully. How are your tomatoes doing this year? I hear that if you are in New England things aren’t going so well.
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Filed under State of the Garden, Tomato

The Perfect B for your BLT

Tomato
It’s official, the Brandywines are ripe and it’s BLT season. We had our first one last week and it was divine! There’s a lot of talk about choosing the perfect tomato for a BLT. And of course if you aren’t already growing some, you pick out a nice head of organic lettuce, but you can’t just pick up a pack of cheap old Farmer Johns bacon. Oh no, you’ve got to find some really good bacon.

Well, last year we did a 12 month intensive search for the perfect bacon, by way of the Bacon of the Month Club, and we’ve found the perfect BLT bacon. We really liked using a pepper bacon, because it adds a nice spiciness. However, it can’t be too spicy because that distracts. And you don’t want a really smokey bacon, because, well, that’s just too smokey. But Hempler’s pepper bacon is perfect. It’s just the right mix of smoky, peppery, meaty, crispy goodness for your BLT. You can order it online here. And if you are feeling really indulgent, you too should try a full year of the Bacon of the Month Club. It’s great fun to have bacon delievered to your door each month.

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Filed under In the Kitchen, Tomato, what we've learned

oh, the problems we have

First tomato
We ate our first tomato this weekend. A San Marzano. Not this one above, but a different one, one without blossom end rot. Blossom end rot is something we seem to struggle with every year. Especially and almost exclusively with the San Marzanos. It’s caused by the plant not getting enough calcium. We already knew that we didn’t have enough calcium in our soil due to our home diagnosed weed problems, but it seems like adding that liquid calcium didn’t do enough to prevent blossom end rot entirely. It’s not affecting every tomato, just some, but its there.

One reason is that plants aren’t able to absorb calcium is by infrequent and inconsistent watering. I don’t think that’s our problem. We do water on a regular basis, about once a week. And it’s a deep watering since we do our drainage pipe method.
blossom end rot
Is anyone else dealing with blossom end rot? You Grow Girl did a great post about this last week.

This next problem is a mystery to us and maybe you can help us.
mysterious
It’s this spotting that’s happening on our nectarines. It’s on the vast majority of nectarines, no matter if they are in the sun or shaded by the leaves. It’s edible, we eat right through it, but it makes them kind of funky looking. Does anyone know what it is?

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Filed under Fruit Trees, Tomato

Another Tomato & Squash update

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It’s amazing what a few days will do. Our little San Marzano is getting so big and look, he has brothers!
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The cucumbers (both lemon and japanese) and getting there and the beans are happy and growing. (oh and that’s Bo, our cat, in the background looking for bugs to catch).

 

beans and cucumbers

squash blossom

Oh, and remember how I wrote that although these portofino zucchini’s were planted at different times, they had all caught up in size? Well, the one we grew earlier from seed is blossoming earlier, so there you are, it IS worth it to start earlier after all. Below is it’s neighbor who’s seed was planted about four weeks later:
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Filed under 1, Growing Challenge, notes for next year, State of the Garden, Tomato

Tomato & Squash Update

Tomato Row
Just thought I’d give an update of Tomato Alley. The original post I did has been my most viewed post, hopefully people will try this growing method and have great success. I think the beauty in it is that by putting the drainage pipes into the ground, you are able to get more water and oxygen down to the roots which makes for a happier plant. Scott mulched this past weekend with straw. By using a thick layer of mulch and our pipes we only have to water them once a week. Which, when we are facing certain water restrictions this summer, is a welcome thought. All plants are looking happy and healthy and this latest little heat wave did them well. We even spotted our first San Marzano.
First San Marzano
We love San Marzanos. Because of their meatyness they make for great sauce.

Zucchini
It seems I turned around the zucchini grew from seedling to adolescents. Isn’t that the way it is with zucchinis? So the interesting thing about these guys is that Scott started that one in back at the end of March on our potting table. Then a month later when it was ready to plant out, he did so then put in two more seeds into the ground next to it, which are the other two plants you see. They are the same size! Sometimes its just not worth it to start sewing seeds early, in our yard at least.

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The Center Plot

It’s windy today, and sunny but with big huge clouds looming in the sky. I wish it were just plain sunny and warm because tonight is the farmers market in town and the new Ben and Jerrys on the square is giving away free ice cream tonight! Now of course I’ll take free ice cream in any weather, but wouldn’t it be so much nicer if it was warm? Anyway, I’m taking you on a tour of the middle of our veggie garden today, please don’t mind the weeds. It was recently covered in favas and vetch, but now that those have been pulled and tilled, its full of little seedlings. Oh and one more artichoke plant:
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Behind the artichoke and the new raised bed (that’s waiting for cucumber seeds to sprout), we have the melon row. Here’s one of the few melons that survived the frosty mornings, a crenshaw.
crenshaw
Behind the melons is tomato alley:
tomato alley
In the tomato bed is a sea full of volunteer amaranth, wonder berry and purple haze carrots (those we actually planted).
purple haze carrots
As you’ll notice in all of our pictures we have those purple amaranth and little wonder berries. Both of those things we started a few years ago, just with one plant and now they come up *everywhere*! The wonder berries were advertised as being just like huckleberries, but I’m here to report that they are not at all like huckleberries and I wish those stinkin’ little sprouts would just go away already. The amaranth, however are a beautiful and welcome surprise to find around the yard. Both the leaves and seeds are edible. You can eat the leaves young in salads, older steamed like spinach and the seed is a grain that you can eat like rice or quinoa.

Behind the tomatoes is our new three part bed that Scott just made. This bed receives quite a bit of shade in the summer because it’s right by three huge cedar trees and our weeping santa rosa plum tree. So in go the cooler season crops like another lettuce bed (lettuce is so easy to grow, its a sin to have to pay for it at the store):
lettuce
Spinach:
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and French breakfast radishes:
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Throughout this middle section is a scattering of borage (again another one we started with just one plant and now have little volunteers everywhere):
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Well, the little ones are up, so I must go. Next up, the right side of the garden.

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Filed under Growing Challenge, Sprouting, State of the Garden, Tomato

how we plant our tomatoes


Speaking of tomatoes, would you like to see how we set up our tomato patch? We’ve tried lots of different methods, from simply sticking the plants into the ground, to using that fancy red plastic mulch (which doesn’t work at all), but this is our absolute favorite method because it really gets water to the roots. It’s a method adapted to our needs from the book, How to Grow World Record Tomatoes (an excellent read). Grown this way we easily get 6 foot – 10 foot tomato plants each year, organically of course!

First we bought a few yards of drainage pipe (like PVC pipe with 1/2″ holes drilled into it) and cut it into 18″ lengths. Then after tilling the beds, we dig a hole with the post hole digger on either side of where the tomato plant will be planted.
digging
Place a length of pipe into the hole.
placing
Fill the hole back up with dirt (but not in the pipe!).
filling in
And place our custom made five foot tomato cages on either side (made with wire fencing). We even have a few cages that are twice as high for our larger 10 foot plants.
the tomato set up
Try this method this summer. You won’t believe how getting the water down to the roots that deep affects the tomatoes. We used to use the small, store bought cages for our tomato plants and now after applying this method, we definately need our hefty custom cages.

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Filed under Tomato, what we've learned